Sunday, January 24, 2010

150 Central Park on Oasis of the Seas

(Disclosure: I am not a food critic nor do I play one on TV. I do however watch “Iron Chef” regularly on the Food Network).

150 Central Park is the most upscale dining venue aboard the Oasis of the Seas…or any Royal Caribbean ship for that matter. Before the Oasis of the Seas first sailed much was written about the dining experience one could expect at this signature restaurant and the chef de cuisine that was selected to manage it. It was a restaurant I wanted to try first hand, so it was a privilege to receive an invitation to dine here while I was onboard.

The restaurant, as the “address” implies, is located in the lush and lovely Central Park neighborhood. The restaurant itself, done in the earthy shades of moss, sienna, and ochre is warm and inviting. Of particular beauty is the mosaic-tiled wall that faces you as you walk in. The tables set in crisp white linen and Limoges bone china, which contrasts nicely against the comfortable richly colored velour chairs. There is a section of tables for two that are paired with tall, sage green concave chairs… and despite the elegance that surrounded me I have to chuckle, as these chairs reminded me of giant pickles!

Although Royal Caribbean could have gone courting for a celebrity chef, they instead launched an extensive worldwide search for up and coming talent. They found it at the prestigious 2008 World Association of Chefs Societies (WACS) Congress in Dubai, where Keriann Von Raesfeld was named the first American and first woman to win the honor of “Best Young Cook in the World”. “Keriann Von Raesfeld's incredible talent and innovative vision for 150 Central Park is the perfect fit within the constellation of culinary offerings aboard Oasis of the Seas," says Frank Weber, Vice President, Food and Beverage Operations, Royal Caribbean International. "Keriann embodies Royal Caribbean's culture of innovation.” Every item on the menu at 150 Central Park is Keriann’s own creation. Her vision for the restaurant is simple; fine dining at its best, but not stuffy fine dining. She has said that food should stimulate all senses. It should be elegant, sexy, and playful.

My dining experience was that and more! Upon being seated we were offered a choice of water; natural, sparkling, or kiwi infused. Unique to the table setting was a dish of artisan salts. Artisan salts are, for lack of a better description, “fancy” sea salts from different parts of the world. Our waiter told us a little about each variety and how each one’s distinctive color, flavor and texture could enhance our meal. The menu itself was extraordinary. We started off with Cream of Sunchoke, a richly satisfying cream soup made from potato and artichokes with parmesan froth. Melon Salad followed, which was a delightful contrast of flavors; the freshness of the fruit, the hint of pepper of the arugala, topped with tangy goat cheese and sweet candied walnut dressing. The next course to come out was Cube of Halibut. It was served with red onion atop a flakey, butter pastry, and it paired well with the fennel confit. Delicious! However, my favorite was a Kobe steak entrĂ©e served with shitake “bacon” and a celery root puree… plated so lovely with drizzled red wine demi glace and chive oil! Full as I was at this point, I never leave a restaurant without at least a taste of dessert. Keriann’s acclaimed banana split, which requires a day-and-a-half of preparation, did not disappoint! Roasted banana filling is rolled up in a freshly made crepe and served with roasted banana ice cream. It is then topped with cherries that have been marinated in port, hence its name “tipsy cherries”. Even this self-proclaimed chocoholic would have to give this dessert five stars!

Toward the end of dinner a woman in a white double-breasted coat and tall hat approached our table…it was Kerriann herself. How difficult it was to equate the amazing gourmet meal I was enjoying with the blonde, fresh faced, 22-year-old woman that came to introduce herself! She is as lovely as she is talented and we chatted amiably for a short while. We told her how much we were enjoying our meal and we wished her all the best at 150 Central Park.

I should note that 150 Central Park will have the most dynamic wine program of any Royal Caribbean restaurant. Master Sommelier John Blazon created the expansive wine list and will feature wine recommendations paired with the evening’s menu and presented in “tasting tiers” based on the bottles’ price. The restaurant will feature two menus per sailing, each offering a 6 and 8 course option. This is a dining experience that should not be missed. Reservations are recommended and can be made online prior to sailing or once onboard the ship. A $35 per guest fee covers the meal and gratuities.

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